Everything You Need to Know About Decanting Wine

Red Wine Decanter

For many wine lovers, decanting is a process that remains mysterious yet often referred to. You may be wondering what exactly decanting is, why it’s done, and can it really improve the taste of wine? For wine geeks, it’s a powerful way of improving your wine, but unless you understand why, it might seem confusing or even silly. Sit back and enjoy a glass as we tell you everything you need to know about decanting wine. 

What is Decanting Wine?

Simply put, decanting means to carefully and gently pour wine from its bottle into another vessel (the decanter) without disturbing the sediment at the bottom. 

The two main reasons why this is done is to:

  1. Separate the wine any sediment that may have formed
  2. To aerate the wine

For many wines, especially older red wines and vintage ports, sediment is naturally produced as the wine ages, even if it is hard to tell just by looking at it. Decanting is a simple but effective way to filter the sediment from the liquid. 

What are the Benefits of Decanting Wine?

  • The main benefit of decanting wine is that it separates the sediment from the clear wine. Although it’s not harmful, sediment can taste unpleasant
  • Decanting allows the wine ‘to breathe’, by exposing the wine to oxygen. This releases gases that have remained dormant while trapped in the bottle, and also soften the wine’s tannins, enhancing the wine’s overall flavour and aromas. 
  • Decanting is also useful in the event of a broken cork. When a cork breaks, little bits of cork will float to the surface. While decanting, you can transfer the wine into another receptacle while capturing the pieces of cork with a strainer. 

How Long to Decant Wine

Decanting can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours, depending on the wine. On average it takes about 40 minutes. 

Red Wines:

Most red wines will need at least 15 minutes to decant. 

  • Light-bodied red wines will only need around 20 to 30 minutes to decant. 
  • Medium-bodied red wines will require between 20 minutes to an hour to decant. 
  • Full-bodied wines will take the longest, usually between 1 to 2 hours.

White Wines and Rosé:

White wines and Rosé tend to not need decanting unless they are reduced. Reduction is when aromatic compounds in your wine have gone without oxygen for too long. This can cause your wine to smell off, such as the smell rotten eggs and burnt rubber. For reduced wines, decanting should take 15 to 30 minutes, allowing the fruity aromas to return.

How to Decant Wine

If your wine bottle has been stored horizontally, have it placed upright for a full day first to allow the sediment to settle at the bottom of the bottle.

  1. Open your bottle of wine with a corkscrew
  2. Tilt the top of your wine towards the decanter, ensuring not to tilt much more than 45 degrees to stop the wine from pouring out too quickly
  3. Pour your wine into the decanter gently. Do this at a steady pace to ensure that sediment doesn’t pour into the decanter. You can use a light to observe the sediment in the body to keep it from transferring into the decanter.
  4. If you see sediment approaching the entrance of the bottle, stop pouring and tilt the wine bottle back
  5. Keep pouring until there is only a small amount of wine at the bottom where the sediment will stay. 

Types of Wine Decanters

Different types of decanters come in all shapes and sizes. Popular decanters include Swan, Standard, Duck and Cornett. 

Large decanters suit full-bodied wines, medium-sized decanters suit medium-bodied wines, and smaller decanters suit white wines, rosé and light-bodied wines. With that said, you don’t need to own different types of decanters for every type of wine.  

No matter how much water you use to clean a decanter, small deposits may build up. We recommend using fragrance-free soap and a decanting cleaner brush, but you could also use a non-metallic scrubby sponge. 

Which Types of Wines Can You Decant?

Whether it’s a young red wine, a white wine, or even an old port, most wines can benefit from being decanted. The process of aerating wine, regardless of its type or age means you will likely be enhancing its flavour or aromas in some way. With that said, be careful with decanting sparkling wines like Champagne, as you risk extinguishing its bubbles. 

Young red wine, in particular, should be decanted, as their tannins tend to be more intense and doing so can make it more palatable. Wines that are often decanted include:

  • Shiraz (Syrah)
  • Malbec
  • Merlot
  • Burgundy
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Bordeaux

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